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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Arb Notes: Uncommon conifers

<ovided that we don’t get any more snow, the temperatures turn more April-like, and the sun stays out long enough to finally dry out the muddy paths of the Arb, you might want to take a run (or at least a nice, leisurely stroll) out into the further reaches of Carleton’s property. Out by the iron bridge, at the north end of the Lower Arb, you’ll come across the pine plantation—a habitat unique amongst the Arb’s typical deciduous fare. Populated with jack pine, red pine, and white pine, the pine plantation is a taste of northern Minnesota, as such conifers are non-native to this region. Planted about sixty years ago in land not suited for the once-active Carleton Farm, the pine plantation was meant to form a habitat for wildlife and as a moneymaker for the college, which hoped to profit from Christmas tree sales.

If the pines are not native to the Arb, why do many of these trees remain standing in the face of vigorous restoration efforts? As many Arb crews battle against other non-native species such as buckthorn in the attempt to return this land to its natural state, keeping the pine plantation around seems to be an impediment to that effort. Yet, these conifers have proved beneficial to many animals that reside in the Arb, and the college’s original intention using the trees as a habitat was not so misguided. Explore the pine plantation and you may spot wild turkeys, deer, or owls. Look at the bases of the trees and you might find owl pellets. This time of year, red squirrels will most likely be gnawing hungrily on the pine buds. Thus, though some of the pines have been cleared for prairie and forest restoration, the lasting trees make for non-harmful visitors and an add a bit of variety to the Arb’s multitude of scenic communities.

So, if the weather ever warms up to feeling like spring (or, dare I even think it—summer), take a break from lounging on the Bald Spot and find a cool, shady spot on a soft blanket of pine needles to do some reading for class—or better yet, to take a long and undisturbed nap.

For the Cole Student Naturalists,
Rae Wood

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